Rise Up Conference: Made for Greatness
St. Joseph’s Oratory, Montréal
Homily of the Apostolic Nuncio H.E. Luigi Bonazzi
December 30, 2015
At the beginning of Mass
“He who makes of the Eucharist his daily bread,
in him is renewed daily the mystery of Christmas:
the incarnation of the Word”.
These words of Edith Stein, now St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, help us to understand with more clarity and truth the mystery of Christmas that we celebrate in these days and which is renewed in each Eucharist. Yes, there is a daily Christmas – the Holy Mass.
In each Eucharist the ‘Word is made flesh’ and enters our home. He becomes flesh in me if I worthily receive him. I become the Word: it is a daily Christmas. What a great thing the Holy Mass. It is with this profound awareness that we celebrate it.
Anna, who was a prophetess, spoke of the child to those awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem (cfr. Lk 2,36-38). Who are the people that we meet today? Those with whom we travel along the road of life, possibly offering each other mutual support? If we look at the city of Montreal that welcomes us, if we look at the towns and cities of the world, if we observe what we read in magazines or to what the television tells us, an impression that seems to impose itself more and more is of living among people who have many interests, yet among them the interest in God is absent. In the horizon of many of our contemporaries, today, God has somehow disappeared, is absent.
This brings to my mind what, with extraordinary prophetic acuity, the philosopher Martin Heidegger wrote in 1926: “The night of the world spreads her darkness. By now our time is characterized by the absence of God, by the lack of God.” Heidegger continued by emphasizing that the most alarming poverty of our time is precisely not to recognize “the absence of God as an absence”, because this absence is, in fact, at the origin of all the frustrations of contemporary man: “death recedes into the enigmatic. The mystery of pain remains veiled. One does not learn to love.”
How true this analysis! Indeed, the absence of God, no longer perceived as a problem, brings forth the night with its accompanying darkness. One no longer sees, one does not understand. And precisely because the meaning of pain is no longer understood, we escape from it and have arrived at the point of presenting as an act of dignity and compassion to administer death to someone, in order to spare them from suffering. The way to learn how to love has been lost and, consequently, the true meaning of love.
Dear friends: this is the context in which, as disciples of Jesus, you are called to live and witness your faith! The faith, as Pope Francis reminds us, “is a gift, yet the measure of our faith is also seen by the extent to which we communicate it. All baptized persons are missionaries of the Good News, above all by their lives, their work and their witness of joy and conviction” (Address to the Roman Curia, December 21, 2015) “We give too little if we do not give God”, Pope Benedict often reminded us.
Certainly, as St. Gregory Nazianzen tells us: “We must begin by purifying ourselves before purifying others; we must be instructed to be able to instruct, become light to illuminate, draw close to God to bring him close to others, be sanctified to sanctify…” (Oratio II, n. 71: PG 35, 479).
In other words, the Kingdom of God is God himself who builds it and only those who receive God can give God. This is precisely the gift given to us in the mystery of Christmas and which is renewed in every Eucharist: we receive God and so can give Him. We become capable of living the highest human experience, the highest human activity: by God’s grace, to bring forth God!
Then what Origin of Alexandria (3rd century) thought of a Christian is fulfilled: that the most vivid and beautiful image of a Christian is that of a pregnant woman who carries within herself new life. It is not necessary for her to speak. It is evident to everyone what is happening within her. There are two lives present, two hearts that beat. And these two lives cannot be separated.
The Christian is one who walks in the world “pregnant” with God, ‘ferens verbum’ (Origin), carrying another life in his life, learning to breathe with the breath of God, to feel with the mind of Christ, as if he had two hearts, his own and another with a stronger beat that will never be extinguished. In this very moment, again, God is looking for mothers in order to take flesh.
Dear young people, you are called to be mothers and fathers who carry God. I invite you to receive as addressed personally to each one of you, the letter that St. John wrote to his disciples and which we heard in the First Reading: “I write to you, young people, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 Jn 2: 14). The Word of God which abides in you, making you strong, is Christ himself. It is Jesus who, today again, calls you to great things. He calls you to be “salt of the earth”.
Yes, in this world full of great lights and frightening shadows, rich in extraordinary potentialities and threatened by serious dangers, you are called to be evangelical salt (Mt 5:13). Note that the statement of Jesus “You are the salt of the earth” is conjugated in the plural: we become salt only if we live and act in unity (Jn 17:20-22). Alone we can do nothing (Jn 15:5): we are inevitably destined to lose taste and to be thrown outside (Mt 5:13).
Indeed, it is within the Church that the Spirit divinizes us (NMI 23) with charity (Rom 5:5), that he makes us tasteful with the Truth (John 8:32), capable of changing the world with the Gospel witnessed “together” (1 John 1:1-4). Having become Church, you will act always in the “plural”, that is to say as a “we-communion”, even when you act “singly”: in this way, with the grace of unity given by the Lord among you (Mt. 18:20) you will be able to fulfill the plan of God, to overcome the great challenges of the world and to meet the deepest yearnings of people (NMI 43).
It is of little importance if, as ‘salt-Church’, you are few in number compared to the multitude waiting to be seasoned: it is enough that you are authentic, rich in Divine strength: indeed, in the Kingdom of God, what matters is not the quantity of what we do but the spiritual density of what we are. In addition, to perform in the world your mission to be ‘salt-Church’, you must know how to dilute yourselves within the circles you frequent: if you remain within compact but isolated cliques, your action will serve little to foster and promote the work of the new evangelization. It is necessary, first of all, to draw close to our contemporaries, and then share with them. To draw close does not mean losing one’s own identity or downplaying it, but having the courage to embrace – with love and without complicity with evil – the situations we encounter, changing them from within, following the example of Jesus.
In re-echoing the title you have chosen for this meeting “Made for Greatness” I conclude by entrusting to you with confidence, in the name of the Church and in the name of Pope Francis, the words that a young Italian woman, St. Catherine of Siena, addressed to the men and women of her time, politicians, artists, men of commerce, men of the Church: “Do not be satisfied with little things because God wants great things” (Letter 127). And again: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire” (Letter 368).
It is the fire of God’s love, of God’s tenderness, of God’s mercy which Jesus has manifested to us and has transmitted to us by the gift of his Spirit. We need to bring Jesus to the men and women of today by the transforming power of his Spirit. And then, my dear friends, death will recover its meaning, suffering its role, and above all, the world will learn to love again: will really rise up!